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January 20, 2005

UW MBA students top dawgs in ‘Rose Bowl’ of case competitions

A team from the UW’s Master’s of Business Administration program won the 2005 Pac-10/Big Ten MBA Case Competition held last weekend at Arizona State University.

The students earned high marks for their analysis of the selected case, which examined problems faced by online grocer FreshDirect. Additionally, the foursome netted a separate award for providing the “most innovative solution” to the given case.

Taking home the $4,000 first prize were UW team members Balu Chenicheri, Michael Dietzman, Flavio Kaplan and Michael Nesland, who were judged on their analytical, communications and presentation skills.

This academic challenge is named after the Pacific-10 and Big Ten athletic conferences and has been referred to by organizers and participants as the “Rose Bowl” of college case competitions. The UW placed second in last year’s competition.

“We hadn’t realized just how much we’ve learned in our classes,” said Chenicheri. “Since our team members never worked together before this competition, we were a little concerned. But the business school has inculcated a culture of teamwork that helps students work well together and encourages collaboration, and we’re proof that this kind of atmosphere created in the classroom is key to success in the real world.”

Preliminary rounds began last fall, with teams of MBA students from business schools within the Pac-10 and Big Ten conferences facing off in their respective competitions. Only the top three teams in each conference advanced to the finals. Finalists representing the Pac-10 in addition to the UW were Arizona State University and the University of Southern California. Representing the Big Ten were Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin.

The teams received the details of a previously undisclosed business problem and were given 24 hours to find a solution and prepare a compelling presentation. The following day, judges heard their presentations and picked three teams to move on to the final round. The finalists presented their cases to a new group of judges who chose first, second and third place winners.

Chenicheri said that in between study breaks, he and his colleagues made trips to Starbucks and watched episodes of South Park to help keep them awake and in good spirits.

UW Business School faculty who coached the team were professors Warren Boeker, Jennifer Koski and Dan Turner.

“The UW team was in a class by itself, demonstrating presentation skills, intricate and thorough analysis, and well-crafted solutions that far out-smarted the competition,” said Dan Poston, executive director of UW’s MBA programs. “This is a testament to the quality and capability of UW students and the quality of teaching they receive.”

Case competitions are designed to encourage students to use all of the knowledge and skills they acquire in class by developing solutions to hypothetical business problems within a short time period.